Milan isn’t a big city, so it’s easy to reach every worthy part of it on foot or by public transport. Despite this, many people still follow the typical tourist path and only visit a few places in the city centre. There are many other cool places to see, it’s just that non-locals don’t know about them. Milan was almost entirely destroyed during WWII, and was rebuilt and expanded in the following years. Because of this, every district is a mix of different architectural styles – it’s easy to find buildings from the 20s situated very close to completely different buildings from the 60s. You might expect this mix to be unpleasant, but in actual fact it’s hard to find a place where there’s nothing beautiful to see! The first bit of advice to follow when visiting Milan is to simply wander around and get lost – with a bit of luck (or some hints from locals), you’ll end up in a nice neighbourhood. For those who are unlucky or have no Milanese friends, Andrea, our local ambassador for Milan, shares her top five must-see neighbourhoods.
“Navigli” are canals that were built in the 16th century to allow small boats to access and deliver goods (especially marble for the construction of the Duomo) to the city centre. Later, most of the canals were covered, but there’s still an area where it’s possible to see them. The Navigli neighbourhood starts just south of the city centre and ends at Milan’s borders. Both canals flow into the countryside, reaching the city of Pavia in the south and the Ticino River in the west. Over the past decades, Navigli has evolved greatly. In the past it was an area that bordered the city and the countryside, where most people lived in typical courtyard houses (which you can still see) and worked as merchants or labourers, but nowadays it’s Milan’s main nightlife spot with many different pubs, bars and clubs, and the Darsena – a small dock that was recently renovated. It’s the place to go for events or just to have a romantic stroll and a drink by the water. Despite the modernisation, it’s still possible to find traces of the past in some of the small shops and restaurants. The further you walk away from the city centre, the more chance you’ll have of finding them!
Photo credit: Paolo Margari
Named after the railway station, Garibaldi is the perfect area to explore if you love modern architecture! It was neglected for some years, and then it became a huge construction yard. Now it’s the newest and most modern part of Milan, home to two of the tallest buildings in the city: Palazzo Lombardia, where the Lombardy government is located, and Pelli Tower, the head office of the Unicredit Bank. Close to the latter you’ll find the new Gae Aulenti Square with its big fountains, surrounded by shops and fancy restaurants. A long promenade stretches from the square past the new buildings, ending close to the central railway station. It’s mainly a business district, but in the Corso Como complex you’ll find some of the most famous and fanciest clubs in Milan alongside fashion and art hotspots. And if you get tired of business, fancy places and modern architecture, just walk for a few minutes to discover the Chinatown district or the astonishing Monumental Cemetery!
Photo credit: Alessandro
This area’s main avenue, Corso Buenos Aires, is one of the Milan’s main shopping streets. It connects Loreto Square, where the suburbs begin, to the Porta Venezia district, where the city centre ends. It spans a total length of 1.6 kilometres, making it one of the longest avenues in Europe. Unlike other shopping streets in the city centre, this one is lined with shops selling all kinds of brands ranging from the most expensive to the cheapest. For this reason, it’s where locals and tourists who don’t want to spend too much money come to shop. If you’re not interested in shopping, there are many other things to do in the area. In the small streets around the avenue you can find many ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, African) and cheap pubs and bars where you can spend a nice evening. The area close to Porta Venezia features beautiful architecture, with many hidden Liberty-style buildings. Just step off the main route and explore the surrounding streets to find them! And if you’re tired after a day of shopping or walking, the peaceful Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli park is the perfect place to rest.
Photo credit: Alan Cordova
Lambrate is a small town that was only added to the city of Milan in 1923, but it still maintains many features of the past. Walking around this area is like walking around a small country town! Città Studi (“City of Studies”) is an area where most of Milan’s universities were built during the last century, which later also became a residential area. Railway lines and the railway station are all that separates these two areas, but together they form a big district. It’s a relatively inexpensive area to live, home to high numbers of students and young families. Over the past few years, many cheap hotels and hostels also opened in the area. There are many green spots where you can hang out and go for walks, the best being Parco Lambro – the biggest park in the city, which was recently redeveloped after some years of neglect. Since it’s probably the “youngest” part of the city, it’s the best place to meet new people. There are plenty of pubs and bars where you can have a drink for a few euros, which are mostly frequented by locals and students. Besides checking out the many nightlife spots, head to the square in front of the Polytechnic University at night (especially during summer or when people graduate) – you’ll probably find a party there!
Since the beginning of the last century, the centrally located neighborhood of Brera has been known as the “art district” of Milan. The area is in fact home to Milan’s most important art academy, where many famous Italians of the past studied and taught. The city’s most famous art gallery is also housed in the same building, together with the Braidense National Library, Milan’s Botanical Garden and the Astronomical Observatory. The number of artists who lived in the area contributed to it becoming an art district, portraying it in many paintings, novels, poems and songs. You can feel the artistic and bohemian atmosphere just by walking along the narrow streets of Brera. There are many art shops and small galleries, antiques shops, jewelers, and bars and restaurants where famous artists used to hang out. There’s also a nice street market held every third Sunday of the month where you can find some nice and original souvenirs to bring home!
Photo credit: Joe Hunt
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